I’m going to say something, and it might make some people out there a little miffed, but here goes- spreadsheets can be the worst. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about the data that gets shoveled into that sheet, which is the good stuff, the life-blood of any enterprise. It’s just how that data has been presented that gives me an ulcer: columns with numbers that have combined other numbers to produce numbers that mean something. To me, data in a spreadsheet can almost be as meaningless as just saying numbers over and over again. An excel wizard I am not.

I think it comes down to fear. I’m genuinely afraid of the obfuscating data table. Why? Because when I look at them I apparently don’t get what is so obvious to everyone else in the room. I am amazed at people who can look at a table of numbers and start nodding their heads like wise old sages. For me, and I don’t think I’m alone, I feel an overwhelming sense of frustration when understanding data comes so easily to a select few while for me coming to the same conclusions would take an act of divination like reading tea leaves or throwing bones in the air.

Like most childhood fears, maybe it stems from childhood. In math class I dreaded the perennial “show your work” caveat on most math questions. I knew how to get the right answer, and figured if I can just give the answer why should I have to go through the pain, sweat and cramped hands of a million steps? While this might be well and good for educators, in the real world I find data management a lot like ‘showing your work’ on those old tests- I have to sift through pages of busy work to get to the one piece of information I need.

The fact is most of us are not data analysts, and if we are pretty good at finding the patterns in those endless rows of numbers, soon that is all we find ourselves doing. We all know that this time could be better spent elsewhere. But what if there was a way to skip the busy work, to put all of that valuable data into a format that focuses on the questions you want your data to answer and states that answer in the form of an immediately comprehensible picture. Customized pictures that change in real time, defined by thresholds you set giving you an overview of your business you can see. Pictures arranged to give you an at-a-glance snapshot of the whole enterprise one second and a highly detailed view of a particular aspect the next. If you could really visualize data this way your eyes would do what they do naturally- pick out patterns and immediately snap to anomalies. This is the combination of art and business intelligence, and the result is a thing of beauty.

– Kerry Gilger, CEO, VisualCue Technologies